Deignan ready for surreal race for rainbow jersey in Yorkshire

Lizzie Deignan is prepared for some surreal moments when she chases a second rainbow jersey on home roads in Yorkshire at the UCI Road World Championships on Saturday.

Deignan, the 2015 world champion, has made this weekend’s race her number one goal since returning in the spring following the birth of baby Orla – who will have to wait a week for her first birthday party while mum competes.

The 149km route from Bradford to Harrogate will take Deignan through her home town of Otley, past her parents’ front door and along roads she walked as a child.

There may be moments when it is difficult to concentrate on the race.

“It will be a ‘pinch me’ moment for sure,” Deignan said. “I ride from the school I went to, up the route I walked to school on every single day. It will be a special, surreal, moment.”

The route is so close to Deignan’s heart that there is inevitably an extra pressure on her shoulders, but the 30-year-old is determined to see it as nothing but a positive.

“It’s part of the people in my life’s everyday consciousness as well,” she said. “Normally for them the Worlds’ build-up is maybe the night before, they’ll give me a ring and say ‘good luck tomorrow’.

“I think for my friends and family and the local community it’s been a bit of a build-up, so there’s more pressure than normal. Just more excitement around, I think.”

Having not known what to expect on her return from giving birth, Deignan has enjoyed a strong year on the road for Trek-Segafredo, highlighted by overall victory in the Women’s Tour in June.

But she admitted that she was surprised by how much the standards in the women’s peloton were raised in her short time away.

“The women’s peloton has moved on so although I’m back to my best, or the best I’ve ever been, it’s a completely different peloton now so I’m going to have to be better than I’ve been before on Saturday to win that title,” she said.

“I only took a year off and I would say there has been a huge jump in the amount of women at the top tier of the sport.

“It’s welcome, I think it’s great that there’s so many different winners now and more women able to be professional in every sense of the word. It did surprise me in such a short space of time.”

Deignan will be supported in Saturday’s race by a Great Britain team also including Alice and Hannah Barnes, Lizzy Banks, Anna Henderson and Nikki Juniper.

Selection for the event continues a remarkable rise for the 28-year-old Banks, who is only in her second year as a professional having quit medical school to pursue a cycling career

When Deignan was pulling on the rainbow bands in Richmond four years ago, Banks was watching at home in Sheffield just a few months after competing in her first proper event – the inaugural Women’s Tour de Yorkshire.

“I watched it on the TV,” said Banks, who won a stage of the prestigious Giro Rosa this year. “It was an amazing thing but I didn’t see myself there because I was so far away from where I am now.

“Every year my ambitions sky-rocketed, I’m always chomping at the bit to go further. I guess that rabid ambition and drive has led me to be in this position.”

Deignan will face stiff competition on the road from the likes of American Coryn Rivera, Italy’s Marta Bastianelli, Australian Amanda Spratt and Kasia Niewiadoma of Poland.

But the biggest challenge comes from a Dutch squad which boasts defending champion Van der Breggen, former world champions Chantal Blaak and Marianne Vos, and reigning time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten.

Holland’s only problem might be having too many options in the race.

“I think sometimes they don’t always support one rider and they do race against each other and that’s one thing you can use to your advantage,” Alice Barnes said.

“You can see the tension in the team and use that against them because it’s quite obvious that it’s there.”

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